Federal guidelines issued May 7, 2008 require that doctors who treat smokers must warn their patients of the dangers of smoking as well as prescribe treatments to enable them to quit smoking. Apparently, most physicians fail to either warn their patients or to prescribe smoking cessation treatments, and the guidelines suggest that failure to do so is medical malpractice. Studies conclude that over 40,000 people die yearly from the effects of smoking; this is more than the number of people who die yearly in automobile accidents. It is well known that heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure are all caused by, or exacerbated, by smoking.
The New York City Health Department has warned doctors that, “failure to provide optimal counseling and treatment [for smoking] is failure to meet the standard of care – and could be considered malpractice.” Many physicians have stated that it is important to act to protect their patients from the effects of smoking; now all physicians are required to do so.